WHERE DID YOU SAY YOU PUT THAT?!
Charles L. Kern, BS/MBA/CPA/CVA/ABV/CFA/CFF/FCPA/AEP
There are many situations where one might ask, “How can I tell what and where a person has placed their financial assets?” Some such situations that readily come to mind are:
- Estate settlements
- Marital divorces
- Business divestitures, split ups, spin offs, etc.
- Due diligence for business acquisitions
- Fraud investigations
- IRS investigations and/or negotiations
- Other regualtory investigation and/or negotiations.
The assets might be real or imagined, larger or smaller that we expect. To the person who believes and/or is entitled to a share of the assets, it can be as tough as looking for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. In this article we want to shed a little light on the subject, meaning to give the reader some places to begin the search and a frame of mind to maintain during the search. Specifically, we will be looking at:
- A sample of such assets (cash or cash equivalents) that you might not immediately think of
- Some types of financial documents to be looked at
- Some sources that are new to us out of the generostiy of our “high tech” society.
Let’s look at some cash/cash equivalents. If another party doesn’t want you to notice their cash or cash equivalents (items readily convertible to cash) there are some pretty clever ways and places to put them. For example, a person might intentially over pay their credit card bills by a significant amount, creating a source for refunds and/or a funding source for purchases. If you send Master Card or Visa $10,000 more that you owe, they will gladly accept it. Or how about your old buddies the IRS? If you send them $10,000 or $20,000 too much, they will be glad to accept it, hold it, and not pay you interest. Later you could get it refunded or use it to pay taxes due in the future. There is another kind of cash equivalent that is a bit more esoteric. There are “income tax loss carryovers”. Capital loss carryovers are a good example. They can be carried forward up to five years, offsetting the taxes that would be due on capital gains realized in that five years. If you had $66,666 in capital loss carryovers to offset anticipated capital gains in the next five years, there will be another $10,000 in your pocket. In another example, if you and/or your business have old operating losses that can be carried forward up to twenty years, and future profits are realisticly expected, those loss carryovers would constitute cash equivalents.
Now comes the question as to what types of documents might we look at to discover and/or uncover these reserves of cash and cash equivalents. A good place to begin is the bank statement for savings and checking accounts. Look at the individual deposits and identify the nature and source of those deposits. Perhaps the deposits came from other unknown accounts, income sources you might not have been aware of, or gift and inheretance sources. Analyze the income tax returns and/or financial statememets of the other party and their business interests. If they show “other income”, ask what asset is the sourcre of that income? If the financial statements show liabilties to the owner(s), is the other party in question one of the owners who is owed money? Analyze the loan applications made by the other party. Often such loan applications will require a valuation of business(s) owned by the loan applicant—your “other party”. It is unlikely that the valuation will be intentionally understated in these situations. Any other assets pledged as collateral for the loan(s) might also be very revealing and interesting to you.
Now don’t we all just love the never ending march of technology? This might be especially true for the technology of communciation. Huge segments of our society, including perhaps the party that you think might be hiding cash or cash equivalents, use recent technology like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to communicate. And as the old television show host Art Linkletter used to exclaim, “People say the darndest things!” Some of those “darndest” things might just reveal cash or cash equivalents. And what “other party” doesn’t communicate by email in this day and age. Again, “People say the darndest things”.
Another document that can be wonderfully revealing, as to where cash and cash equivalents might be found, is “ye ole passport”. Maybe that “other party” enjoys a lot of international travel. Maybe they decided to keep cash and/or cash equivalents in those other countries. Frankly, if one travels a great deal, there are many good non-offensive reasons to keep money in one or more of those countries. Offensive or not, keeping those assets out of your reach might be one of the reasons therefore. It probably isn’t easy to get your hands on those assets, but there might be available an equivalent amount of more accessible assets. The question is worth the asking! So let me repeat the question:
WHERE DID YOU SAY YOU PUT THAT?!